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Police killings spark call to action

Thu., Jan. 7, 2010

Gregoire targets bail, parole laws

OLYMPIA – Judges should be able to deny bail to criminal suspects who are thought to be “inherently dangerous” to the public, Gov. Chris Gregoire and representatives of the state’s law enforcement system said Wednesday.

Gregoire said she will ask the Legislature to give voters the right this November to pass a constitutional amendment giving judges more flexibility to deny bail. They should not be limited to suspects accused of murder, who can now be held without bail, or someone facing a third-strike felony that could result in a life sentence upon conviction, she said.

“You may have someone who wants out on bail today who is an absolute harm to the public at large,” Gregoire said at a news conference where she was flanked by leaders of organizations representing sheriffs and police chiefs, officers and deputies, prosecutors and corrections officials. “I don’t believe it will be overused, misused. I think discretion is the better course.”

Gregoire and law enforcement officials are discussing changes to various systems and practices in the wake of fatal attacks on six officers in the Puget Sound region between Halloween and Christmas. They’re looking at improving pensions for the families of young officers killed in the line of duty and changes to the system that allows felons from one state to relocate to another.

Maurice Clemmons, who was accused of killing four officers in Lakewood, Wash., on Nov. 29, was on parole from Arkansas and not forced to return there even after he was arrested for various crimes in Washington. Gregoire said the state should put conditions on accepting any felon from another state, and those who break the law in their new state should be sent back.

“You don’t wash your hands of an individual just because he’s gone to another state,” Gregoire said earlier in the day during a preview of the upcoming legislative session.

At that preview session, Gregoire and legislative leaders discussed a pending budget shortfall estimated at $2.6 billion and counting. The governor said she will propose a revised budget next week that will restore some of the cuts in the spending plan she announced last month. That new budget may propose some tax increases – what Gregoire called “revenue enhancements” – but probably won’t be complete because the state still has to see what the Obama administration and Congress provide in recovery programs.

She will propose closing 10 state institutions, including the Pine Lodge Corrections Center for Women in Medical Lake. But she acknowledged closing any state institution is difficult because voters and legislators usually oppose closing facilities in their backyard.

“We have to make some tough business decisions,” she said.

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